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Unmaking a Mess

A faithful Catholic finds him or herself in a complicated situation these days. It’s not just the age-old opposition from “the world.” Too many people, including Catholics in the pews and even in the Vatican, now seem to think that the world’s opposition arises because of something we’ve done wrong – e.g., offending LGBT activists or actually believing what’s been revealed by God. Or, in line with the Church’s longstanding cultivation of our God-given capacities, we stubbornly insist on the truths discoverable by the interplay of Faith and Reason.

By contrast, a Certain Person warned us from the beginning: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) And there’s a clear reason for this: “it hates Me, because I testify that its works are evil.” (John 7:7)

It’s a troubling feature of the postmodern condition that talk of Good and Evil is regarded as “simplistic” by many people, even – the horror! – judgmental. At least when Christians are concerned.  Yet at the same time, our culture is full of very poorly formulated, but quite absolute, condemnations of people judged to be engaged in evils like racism, sexism, patriarchy, “colonialism,” Western civilization, transphobia, Islamophobia – all usually regarded as, in some vague way, connected to traditional Christianity.

Untangling this mess of half-truths and outright fictions presents one of the greatest challenges to Christian life in our time – an urgent task, not just for the scholars but for all of us on a daily basis. Jesus was not afraid to speak of Good and Evil – as valid distinctions for all people in every place at all times. He didn’t think that there was liberation or sophistication in speaking of “my truth” and “your truth” as the most up-to-date marker of your personal dignity, as if there were no overarching common and real Truth.

Speaking that Truth is why we’re here at The Catholic Thing, something we’ve been trying to do, humbly but faithfully, since our inaugural column, laying out our hopes and goals [1], appeared on June 2, 2008. Since then (I’m reliably informed by Brad Miner) we’ve had over 60 million “pageviews” and are read on every continent. Our articles are regularly translated into five foreign languages (check it out on the upper-right corner of the homepage.) And we’re read intensely, first thing in the morning, by thousands, not least – as I often discover when I’m there – in Rome.

Since then, we’ve grown in other ways as well. Our coverage of major and minor events in Rome has made TCT one of the trusted sources for accurate, sober news and analysis at a time when both are in short supply on matters Catholic. We’ve published these in addition to the daily TCT column under the rubric “The Vatican Thing,” as well as in regular podcasts with distinguished commentators such as Fr. Gerald Murray, Fran Maier, Fr. Raymond de Souza, Diane Montagna, Edward Pentin, Larry Chapp, Fr. Robert Sirico, among others.

Saint Peter [2]by Peter Paul Rubens, 1610 – 1612 [Muso del Pardo, Madrid]

We’ve been especially focused recently on goings on in and around the Synod on Synodality, which will be reaching its concluding stage during the whole month of October later this year. In many ways, that Synod has shown itself to produce little serious content – and we’ve documented that repeatedly. But it also opens up channels for all sorts of mischief with regards to women deaconesses (priests?), valuing LGBT+ relationships (Fiducia supplicans, the document about blessing gay and “irregular” couples, appeared out of nowhere but clearly has its origins in the same sort of open-ended “conversation” fostered by “Synodality”). We’ll be in Rome in October and will also be reporting along the way before then to keep you well informed about the highs and lows of what some regard as the “greatest event in the Church since Vatican II.”

But Catholics cannot be concerned only about matters in the short run. We have the longest standing, richest cultural and spiritual tradition in the world. And it’s out of the depth and breadth of that tradition that we are best equipped to deal with new developments in both the Church and secular society.

Towards that end, we started offering courses during the COVID lockdowns on Dante, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas More. And we’ve continued with those offerings on a regular basis, addressing subjects like the crisis in the Church and what to do about it (with Fr. Murray); St. John Henry Newman’s work on the development of doctrine and the Church’s understanding of the proper meaning of conscience (two crucial subjects for this moment in Catholic history).

And we’re currently in the middle of David Bonagura’s course on Joseph Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity, which – as anyone who has read it could tell you – is like everything our late brother Benedict XVI wrote, no mere introduction, but a profound meditation on the Christian task in our time.

And given the upcoming elections in both Europe and America this year, we’re planning some new courses on Catholic social and political principles, as well as the usual coverage of day-to-day politics.

It’s because of all of this that I can come to you sincerely to ask for your support – in prayer and thought first of all – but since we are beings composed of body and soul, financial as well. We only come to you twice a year at The Catholic Thing, and our mid-year campaign begins today and will run for the next month.

People keep telling me that I should bang the apocalyptic drum to stir people up to donate. But as I’ve told you many times – and am not merely flattering you – I have greater faith in the maturity and seriousness of our readers. You come here daily because you know why what we do here is important. And why your support is crucial, since we depend entirely on readers’ donations to carry on our various activities.

So, there’s you, there’s the need. And there’s a button below that will take you to our donations page. (All contributions are entirely tax-deductible.) Thank you in advance for your interest and help in our continuing Catholic Thing.

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.